Monday, December 21, 2009

Getting ahead of myself

Today is Monday, December 21.

Just four days until Christmas.

I am not done with my shopping, and haven't even thought about wrapping, and have just a bit of baking/cooking to do. You might think that I would feel a little overwhelmed by all of this.

You would be wrong. The thing is, I have seeds on the brain.

More precisely, I have next year's garden on the brain. This is a phenomenon that usually sets in a week or so into January, when the dust of the holidays is long settled and that mid-winter funk starts to set in. The seed catalogues begin to arrive, and I spend hour after hour leafing through them, planning gardens and scheming about canning and freezing and preserving.

We will never have a big enough yard to fulfill these wild dreams of mine. (My dear husband should take some small comfort in this.)

I've been doing my best to stave off these cravings. After all, it's the holidays! I have a little girl who is VERY excited about Christmas, and Santa, and carrots for Rudolph! 'Tis the season! And while on the one hand I am not as overcome by the holidays as I have been in years past -- with the traditions and the merriment and the warm-fuzzy feelings -- on the other hand I am not as overcome by the holidays as I have been in years past -- with the rushing and the stressing and the why-didn't-I-start-this-in-October panic.

To me this feels like a year of transition, at least holiday-wise. This will be, to say the least, a Christmas like no other. The vestiges of the season spent so often with my parents have all but completely fallen away, and let me be quick to say: I'm alright with that. The traditions that are dearest aren't going anywhere. But still, it's all so different. A little freeing even.

Free to dream about seeds, and planning, and a summer spent working and playing in the garden with Sara; remembering how my father tended the plants and my mother put up the harvest, and then making our own way ahead. Maybe ultimately, that's really what I'm looking toward: time in the garden with Mom and Dad. A new season to celebrate with them.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Birthday blessing

Happy birthday, Dad.

Today would have marked 75 years.

We mourn that you're not here for us to celebrate, but the truth is this--
you are happier where you are:

No tears or pain or sadness
No cancer to rob you of your independence
or grief to weigh on your heart.
There is only love and peace and joy and health for you now.
The pain and sadness is left for us
But we accept it, knowing that it will pass away from us one day, too.

Today would have marked 75 years.
Instead, you have eternity.

A birthday blessing.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Should you ever forget

An editorial piece from the September 21, 1897 edition of New York's Sun, written by Francis P. Church. (You can also view it here.) It never loses it's relevance, and I look forward to re-reading it every year. I hope you'll enjoy it as much as I do.

I'm a believer -- how about you?


DEAR EDITOR: I am 8 years old.
Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus.
Papa says, 'If you see it in THE SUN it's so.'
Please tell me the truth; is there a Santa Claus?


VIRGINIA, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except [what] they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men's or children's, are little. In this great universe of ours man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect, as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.

Yes, VIRGINIA, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus. It would be as dreary as if there were no VIRGINIAS. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.

Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies! You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas Eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if they did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that's no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.

You may tear apart the baby's rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived, could tear apart. Only faith, fancy, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, VIRGINIA, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.

No Santa Claus! Thank God! he lives, and he lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Standing outside the fire

I was chatting today with some friends from work about a girl I went to school with many years ago. The details of her story aren't really relevant, but the bottom line was this: She's doing something she's just not very good at, but she does it proudly and without any trace of doubt.

And at that moment I realized how that would never, ever be me.

I am my own worst critic. My dreams never seem to get off the ground because I'm convinced I'm not good enough to do whatever it is I imagine. There is always someone better, or more creative, or more talented, or better suited, or more experienced, or luckier, or prettier, funnier, faster, smarter -- whatever. Some of this self-doubt is in the genes, I'm convinced, but most of it is just me. Me & that shitty little voice in my head that is incessantly reminding me of my mediocrity.


Sadder still is that I'm not really sure what to do about it. I guess it's some small thing to at least recognize it for what it is. But even as I praised my old classmate for doing what she loves, critics be damned, I silently reminded myself:

But I could never do that.

Monday, December 07, 2009


This morning while I was making breakfast I looked out the kitchen door & saw the year's first snow. I could not have been happier.

Four years ago this very day I looked out of my hospital room window and saw the year's first snow -- but that's not why I was so happy.

This is why I was so happy.

What a difference four little years can make.

Happy birthday, big girl. Thank you for an annual reason to remember the very best day, ever.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Tonight I started writing

I've thought about writing a lot, and here's the funny thing: Thinking about writing doesn't make you a writer.

Profound, right?

Like most other things I do and enjoy, I don't consider myself an especially gifted writer. I don't dream up stories of suspense or fantasy and I can't imagine why anyone would want to read my thoughts or opinions or recollections. I share those here mostly for the benefit of my daughter, because I don't want to leave her with all the unanswered questions that my mother left me.

I spend a lot of time thinking about Mom. In May she will be gone for five years. It seems unimaginable. Even though those days feel like they have only just passed, the truth is that life has been impossibly full for my bother, sister and me. Mine alone has experienced Sara's birth, Dad's illness and death, a new job, hard lessons in marriage, and a soul-crushing home renovation that I swear I might turn into a Wagnerian opera one day. (I think I'll start wearing the Brünnhilde horns around the house for a little inspiration.)

Time was supposed to be the thing that helped me make peace with Mom's death. But here I sit, four and a half years later, reliving the night that we said goodbye to her while tucking my daughter into bed. It's just as real now as it was that evening -- and let me tell you, I wasn't all that wild about it the first time around. Death, my friends, is for the birds.

So I'm going back to an old technique that someone suggested to me several years ago, one I've tried before with a fair degree of success: I'm writing it out. I'm going to take it out of my heart and put it to the page, where it can stay forever safe but not rise up to choke me when I least expect it. Death and dying may have a grip on me, but to be honest in many ways Mom's final days were more than most people could hope for. She was surrounded by so many people that she loved and died holding the hands of her children. We were all so lucky, really.

But lucky is not how I feel when I am in the throes of remembering it all. "Feeling lucky" is actually probably way too much to ask for. Maybe I can aim for "grateful," or "at peace" or even "OK." I will happily take any one of them.

Through this process I hope not only to get the sharpness of grief out of my system but also to gather together my memories of her so I never forget that Mom was more than just her death. I don't want to forget who she really was because I want Sara to know her namesake. She has big shoes to fill, my little girl -- and I don't just mean Mom's size 10s. Our mother, though she never would have recognized it, has a story to tell and I think it's a good one. And so, I'm going to try and tell it.

Tonight I stopped thinking and started writing. For me and for Sara, and for the story Mom had to tell. I hope I can do it justice. And who knows? Maybe this will make a writer out of me yet.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Christmas flowers, lilacs, and marigolds

Rob took Sara out to Shades State Park today, just because it was Thursday and he could. They love their T-days together and the adventures that ensue.

As they were driving home they passed a cemetery. Sara said "That's where we take flowers to Grandma," remembering our occasional trips to Mom and Dad's condos over the years, clearing away the old blooms and leaving something new.

Rob corrected her, saying that yes, we take flowers to Grandma -- but not there. Some other little girls had taken flowers to their grandmothers at this cemetery. Sara thought about it for a second, then announced that she wanted to take Christmas flowers to Grandma this year.

And then, "I miss Grandma."

He called me at work, right after this conversation, to tell me what she had said. And of course I cried. (Of course I did.) Not so much because I miss Mom -- though I do, every day -- but because Sara never got a chance to know her. But even so, she loves her. She misses her. And I believe she misses Mom every bit as much as I do, as much as her tender little free-and-a-half year old heart will allow. I can't wait to pick out those Christmas flowers with her and remember Mom together, telling her how Christmas was Mom's favorite time of year, and how flowers were one of her most favorite things. Somehow in the remembering, there is a little less missing.

Sara went on to talk about all the things she wants in her garden next year, sounding very much like her namesake. "I am going to plant all the flowers I love like lilacs and marigolds, and Mama will plant veg-uh-tuh-bles, and Papa will plant fruits."

Mom would just love this girl. Love her. They would be peas and carrots, those two. I'm just so sorry they had to miss it.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Long time, no blog

I've been derelict in my blogging duties. It's true.

Why is that? Well, let's see...

Sara: She's busy. Like, crazy busy.
Halloween: Never more fun than this year. NEVER.
Work: It's been a bitch lately. Ugh.
New obsession: I might be a wee bit dreamy over my photo shoot last weekend. Too fun.
Not the flu: I don't know what it was, but Sara was down for the better part of a week.
Bejeweled Blitz: OMG. It's like Facebook crack.
The other crack: Photoshop. Dovetails nicely with my new obsession.
Falltime: My favorite season never fails to disappoint.

Not a very long list, now that I look at it. Ah, well. Perhaps a few photos to make it up?

Monday, October 19, 2009

Romans 8:26

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness.
We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself
intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.

rather than dwell on all the things I want (but don't need),
or recount all the things that I have (but don't deserve),
I am setting aside my mind's idle chatter
and praying for a family that has shouldered more grief than I can imagine.

I don't have adequate words for them. Thankfully, I don't have to.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Cancer sucks, and that's why you should help

One of the upsides (and believe me, I look for them) of my job is that I get notifications about all sorts of interesting medical research. Every now and then one really catches my eye -- and this is one of them.

The American Cancer Society is doing their third Cancer Prevention Study (CPS) and wants you to participate. If you're between the ages of 30 - 65 and have no personal history of cancer go over and check this list for the 2009 locations, then call your local office to make an appointment or see if you qualify to enroll (I'm looking at you, Indiana!).

If you don't meet the requirements you're not off the hook, because it's your job to let someone who does qualify know about this opportunity to help. Right now over 70,000 people are enrolled in the project but they're hoping to eventually have 500,000 thousand people from across the country participate. Previous CPS studies have demonstrated the link between cancer and smoking, obsity, nutrition, and lifestyle. This time around the ACS hopes to learn even more about the factors that may lead to - or prevent - cancer.

You can go to their website here to find more information about this project, or go here to get the number of your local ACS office.

This matters, people. You all know someone whose life has been rocked by this disease, so make the call.

I will... how about you?

Friday, October 02, 2009

It's all about the fabric, friends!

How about a little giveaway?

OK! Head on over to Lila Tueller's site for a chance to get your hands on some very cute fabric she's got coming out for next spring. It's lovely!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Bottle it up

There are lots of things about being Sara at the age of three that I'd like to bottle up and save for another day because I know they would come in handy:

  • Her boundless energy. (BOUNDLESS.)
  • Her uncluttered honesty.
  • Her insatiable thirst to know everything. (EVERYTHING.)
  • Her frequently issued hugs and kisses.
  • Her drive for fun and adventure.
  • Her soft, smooth, clear, creamy skin. (I SO WISH.)
  • Her innocence.
  • Her optimism.
  • Her propensity to make up words that are just right.
  • Her abs of steel. (OR MAYBE TITANIUM.)
  • Her infectious sense of humor.
  • Her sweet heart.
  • Her simple problems.
  • Her ability to forgive.
  • Her honest, undeserved, pure, unfiltered, endless love for her family and friends. (AND KITTIES AND NEIGHBORHOOD DOGS.)

I'd also like to bottle up her fashion sense. Because the girl likes what she likes, and she isn't afraid to work it.

I guess we can consider that bottled.

Totally wish...

...I could go to this.


Wednesday, September 23, 2009

It's true

The squeaky wheel DOES get the grease.

Maybe I need to squeak more often.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

cjane readjane lovejane (who's really courtney)

Here is a blogger I thoroughly enjoy. She puts words to work in a way I appreciate: Funny or melancholy or smug or humbled, each one is precise, heavy with meaning.

Even if she's talking about dirty diapers.

It's a gift I tell you.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Putting a pin in it

In an ill-advised plot to simultaneously accomplish a pain in the neck errand and wear out the child, I decided to take a stab at a mid-week, post-dinner, end-of-the-day run to the library with Sara tonight.

Yes, the Central Library. Downtown. The rather large one. That I haven't completely got a handle on just yet. Right right -- that's the one.

And I guess now is just as good a time to mention that I woke up with a headache this morning which I never did shake. (Is it possible to shake a headache that you wake up with? I don't think so.)

Anyway, Sara and I traipsed off to the beautiful new library, her library tote in tow, with just a few things to gather up. Because she is three she made attempts to run through the stacks and hooted like an owl in the old, high-ceilinged reading room, and because I am Mama I threatened her with No Books For You or Going Home Right Now if she didn't knock it off. We reached a middle ground and made it out relatively unscathed, if not quickly or quietly.

But oddly enough, this isn't a story about the library. This is a story about the moments after we left the library, when I pulled out on to Pennsylvania and then made the west-bound turn on to St. Clair to make our way back home up Meridian Street. To our left was the American Legion Mall, with all of its memorials and monuments and homeless people, and to our right was the grand sweeping staircase into the old original library, the same entrance that I walked through myself for so many years though it's now outfitted with a unique work of modern art. As I made the turn and navigated the car around jaywalkers and parallel parkers I heard a loud, hoarse gasp from the back seat.

You don't hear a three year old gasp like that everyday.

If it had been an adult I would have slammed on the breaks and braced for impact, but as it came from a preschooler my instincts were tempered with curiosity and a little amusement. As soon as I realized that we weren't about to hit anyone or anything, I heard Sara say "Look at THAT one. What's that called, Mama? What is it? Wait -- a sunset? A sunset. Yeah, a sunset. That is one of the GOOD ones. That is a good sunset."

And it was.

But I never would have noticed it if not for the fresh eyes of my sweet girl. And I think this is why God sometimes gives us ill-advised plots for Tuesday night trips to the library with a three year old.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

A letter for Sara

Baby girl,

I have called you this for three years – “free and a HALF” years, as you would say. And you are, and you always will be, despite your protest that you are not a baby. Or a little girl, or even small. You are big.

(As much as I hate to admit it, you are big, too.)

But here’s the truth, and I don’t expect you to understand it now. It took your Mama 35 years to learn this and sometimes I still find it hard to believe: Forever and ever you will be my baby girl. Not the infant who unknowingly depended on me to eat and stay warm and dry, who needed us to teach her to talk and walk and play. Not the toddler who demanded her independence while always making sure I was within her line of sight. Not the preschooler who dazzles me with her sense of humor and insight.

No, you will always be my baby, who I think of first thing in the morning and remember last at night. The one whose face I could never imagine until I met you, but who I had known for a lifetime once you arrived. You are an extension of me and still entirely yourself – a phenomenon that I can’t ponder for too long because it always makes me dizzy. You are every great possibility waiting to happen. You are the one that I have always loved without any fear or doubt or reservation.

None of these things will ever change.

And that’s the tricky part: It will never, ever change. Even when you leave for kindergarten or high school or college, even when you leave to start your own family, you will still be my baby. You won’t like this – I didn’t like it – for a long, long time. If you are like me it will take the birth of your own child to teach you this lesson and make it stick, and still you’ll struggle with the notion that I could have ever loved you as much as you love your own little one.

But I did. And I do. And I always, always will. Even when I’m gone.

Because that’s how Mamas forever feel about their babies.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Mama/Sara Adventure Day!

The poor kid. Her father has set up an entirely different expectation when it comes to "adventure," one that typically includes appropriate footwear and outdoor gear.

Then there's me. My adventure days require dressing up, hair decorations (or pretties, or crowns, or whatever she's calling them on a given day), a restaurant, and all manner of girly things. (Translation: shopping is usually involved.)

So today we donned our best twirly skirts, had pancakes at LePeep, and then went raspberry picking at Spencer's Berry Farm. We followed that up with a trip to the Red Circle Store (aka Target) and then came home to build a fort and take a nap.

(Rob took over for one of those last two activites. I'll let you guess which one.)

All in all, a great Mama/Sara day. Can't wait for the next one!

Wednesday, September 02, 2009


After dinner Sara and I sat down to do a puzzle or two (or three).

And you must know: doing puzzles with Sara is a painful experience. Painful. I think because she is so smart I expect too much from her sometimes; typical three-year-old tantrums baffle me because she speaks with the vocabulary and complexity of someone closer to five or six -- a big emotional and intellectual leap, all things considered. But these puzzles... man, oh man. I really think she should have a better grasp on them than she does. Just 12 pieces, filled with edges and corners to guide the way. What I realized as those painful 30 minutes unfolded was that this is just an area of relative weakness for her, this business of seeing the Big Picture.

In watching her tonight I remembered again how much alike we are, my girl & me. Losing sight of the Big Picture is a constant struggle for me, too, and that flaw reveals itself in a seemingly random but nevertheless consistent manner. Countless half-completed projects, dreams abandoned, lifelong struggles with weight, stubborn attempts to engineer the future -- they're all the result of missing the Big Picture.

Sara sat tonight quickly pulling at random pieces and forcing them together, happily oblivious to the pictures she was trying to create. Rather than envisioning Eric Carle's train cars full of hippos and lions and giraffes Sara saw purple lines or yellow blobs or "big teeth!" She had the bottom at the top and the top on the side and tried with all her might to meet the middle pieces with edges and the corners with the middles. As she did it she filled the room with self-talk, alternating between murmurs of "this is hard for me" and singing "I! CAN! DO! THIS!" Blissfully, peacefully, doggedly working the pieces and more often than not failing but never pausing to wallow in that failure. Never kicking herself, never giving up. And when the pieces did fit? Celebration and pride the likes of which you only see in a three-year-old.

How many times have I grabbed at random pieces of my life and tried to force them together in ways that seemed so logical, so right, but in the end could not have been more wrong? How many times have I tried to start at the end with no thought of the beginning? How many times have I missed the clues that help you fit the pieces together the right way, refusing to slow down and take the time to really work the puzzle out?

(Countless times, I am sad to say.)

We've got a lot to learn, she and I, about remembering the Big Picture. But tonight as I sat and watched my daughter chip away at those 12 piece puzzles bit by bit by topsy-turvy bit it's she who taught me something about approaching this work with perseverance, joy, and celebration.

The girl never ceases to amaze. She's only three. How much more is she going to teach me in the years ahead? I only pray I'm a good and worthy student.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Raising the bar

So, I know there are a lot of mommy bloggers out there.

I never really thought of myself as one, but since most of what I write is for the (eventual and ultimate) benefit of my daughter then I guess I ought to cop to it.

But when I run across blogs like this one, I can't help but wonder...

When did mommy blogging become so gosh darn slick?

Don't get me wrong: Hers is a lovely blog, with a terrific layout, up-to-date graphics, high-end design and amazing photography. I mean, come on -- Photoshop or no, my snaps would never turn out like those. (Those beets? Holy cats those beets! They make me swoon - and they're beets.) And then there are the recipes. There's no bottled peanut sauce or fajita seasoning packets to be found. I guess I just marvel at having the time to pull all of that together. Raising three kids, plus mad cooking skills, not to mention taking the time to shoot & shop it all and then write about it? It's like she decided to live what Martha Stewart is selling.

And is actually pulling it off.

I am impressed. And she doesn't even appear to be one of those moms with a not-so-hidden marketing agenda. Sort of makes me think twice about what the heck I'm doing here. Cause slick I ain't.

Jealous much? (Oh yes. Yes, yes, yes.)

Addendum: The response I'm getting to this on Facebook is unexpected. Maybe I didn't write what I thought I was writing, as my point was meant to be more about the explosion of "glossy" mommy blogs rather than a fish for moral support and/or praise. Will have to re-read future posts with multiple perspectives in mind to avoid what might appear to be manipulative pleas for attention.

That said, thanks for the moral support and reminders that being "Sara's supermommy" is really what it's all about.

Friday, August 21, 2009


My mother always said that rain brings good luck.

We have had a remarkably mild summer this year, but for the past few days August has tried to make up for this by offering up a particularly uncomfortable run of hot, humid days interspersed with rain showers and thunderstorms. Personally, I love storms and the energy that they bring -- but the muggy, hot days I can do without.

Similarly, day-to-day life over the past week has been particularly uncomfortable as well: Running in too many different directions for too long, trying to meet the needs of most everyone but myself. Yesterday I finally hit the wall. I was done. I slept for more hours than I can remember sleeping in a long, long time.

And then today I woke up better rested, and the weather finally broke too. The rain is still here but has brought with it cooler breezes and more of these pleasant but unusually mild days. So, before Sara woke from her nap this afternoon I decided to take advantage of the time and the weather by sitting outside and swinging under my sister's tree. There was a heavy grey cloud blowing our way and I knew another shower was coming but I didn't care; in fact, I thought it was perfect.

Just after I sat down I noticed an abandoned nest at my feet, blown out of the tree during one of the storms earlier this week. It was a sweet little robin's nest, still perfectly intact despite the elements. I thought about how much work that bird must have put into building it's small home, and what a good job it did for it to look so perfect even after it's unceremonious eviction from that tree.

And then it started to rain.

It was hard to ignore the parallels to our own nest, the one we've spent so long working on but that will be beautiful and well-built when it's finally done. I took it as a sign that we would find our home there soon -- maybe not as soon as we might like, but soon nonetheless.

I'm going to keep that nest, and fill it up with wishes for all the things I hope to find in our own: peace, good health, happiness, love. And it will be a reminder of the time, effort, and patience it took for us to get there, and of the storms we had to weather to finally, finally, come home.

The rain blessed me today. Good luck, indeed.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Soft spot

As Sara gets older I find myself struggling more and more with the one thing that I just can't seem to deny her.


Because every time I hear that desperate need in her voice, the panicked harmonic that tells me she's afraid I'm not going to be there, I lose my resolve. I can't let her live with that fear for even a second because I know how it feels. I experience it every day and - for the record? It feels pretty awful. Yes, yes, even at my ripe old age. I'm pretty sure you never stop needing your Mama.

I just won't let my little girl carry that crappy feeling around yet. And so bedtime might be a nightmare for awhile, and I might spend more hours than I care to remember calming her irrational fears. It just doesn't matter. She's got me, and I'm not going anywhere. That's all she needs to know.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

I can't do it all ~OR~ My to-do list is actually quite short

Here is what I do:
  • Get up with Sara every morning
  • Feed her (or at least keep her from eating candy for breakfast)
  • Shower
  • Get dressed
  • Make coffee -- sometimes, drink it
  • Look for breakfast to eat in the car -- sometimes, find it
  • Think about finding something to take for lunch -- sometimes, make it
  • Work: that's another post entirely
  • Get home & assume Sara responsibility
  • Clean house -- no, pick up crap; no time for cleaning
  • Ask Rob to do laundry (a few times a week)
  • Sometimes fold it
  • Worry about the house
  • Worry about money
  • Worry about Sara/my health/the future
  • Go to the grocery
  • Cook
  • Wash dishes
  • Keep Sara from killing herself
  • Give her a bath
  • Argue with her
  • Bargain with her
  • Discipline her
  • Put her to bed
  • Several times each night
  • Collapse
  • Sleep
  • Get up and do it again
  • Wonder why

Here's what I don't do:
  • Make a healthy breakfast for Sara & myself
  • Get to work on time
  • Enjoy my job/consistently make a difference
  • Spend time playing with Sara
  • Plan menus to have healthy dinners & lunches prepared
  • Exercise
  • Enjoy 15 minutes of quiet, just for me (maybe drinking coffee)
  • Get enough sleep
  • Spend enough time with Rob
  • Spend enough time with my friends
  • Read (daily)
  • Write (daily)
  • Create (daily)
  • Behave nicely (all the time)
  • Do the things I really enjoy doing, every single day
  • Live happily with less
  • Simplify (everything)

All I need to do:

  • Switch titles on the lists above.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

10 things -- but really, only one

Among the various tasks I have to do at work is triaging new orders that come in for outpatient evaluations and then deciding which of our speech pathologists should see each patient.  Every chart I get has a patient history form that has been completed by mom, dad, caregiver, foster parent -- whoever cares for the child.

Most are run-of-the-mill.  Some are hilarious.  Some, worthless.  One was even insulting. 

And, of course, some are sad.  One mom, who obviously had very basic reading and writing skills, had clearly spent a long time working on her son's history: she had been exceptionally thorough, proof-read it (changing correct grammar & spellings into errors on several occasions), and written a lengthly note sharing her guilt that her child's delays were her own fault.  

But the ones that always get to me come from the parents whose children are unable to speak at all.  Usually these parents are some of the strongest we meet:  their children are so medically involved, fragile in so many ways -- unable to walk, talk, eat, dress themselves, clean themselves -- that by the time we are working with them on communication they have developed a pretty tough exterior.  While I'm sure they have private moments where they grieve for their kids, wonder why, feel guilty, and indulge in the anger they rightly hold, these parents can't dwell on those emotions every day.  They wouldn't survive.  They have therapies, and medications, and tube feedings, and real patient care duties to attend to every single day.  

The history we gather on these kids is a little different.  We try to figure out who's in there, what gestures, expressions, even grunts they might already be using to reach out to the people around them.  It's amazing to me how resilient these kids are and how intimately their families know them that they can understand what, to an outsider, is just a meaningless noise or an almost imperceptible glance.  We try to figure out what kinds of motor, social, and cognitive skills they have.  We ask what kinds of communication approaches have been tried before, what has worked, and what didn't.  

The last thing we ask is for parents to list ten things they would like their child to be able to say.  And I'm sure you already know their first response -- it would be yours and mine as well.  All of them, every last one, answers the same.

"I love you."

Can you imagine?  (I can't.)

And this is one reason, among oh so many, that I tell my daughter a hundred times a day that I love her - and why I truly do know how blessed I am to hear her tell me the same.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009


Many things on my mind these days.  Deciding which to wrestle with first.  Will post when a winner is determined.

I know it'll be hard, but do try to sleep between now & then, OK?  OK.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Rag doll

I just woke up from the second best nap EVER.

It didn't quite pass the high bar set by The Great Nap of 2006, but man, oh man -- it was close.

I'm so relaxed I'm not sure how I'm managing to sit upright.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Grief, you're a tricky bastard

A colleague called yesterday to tell me she had just learned that her sister has a brain tumor. It is aggressive, and does not respond well to treatment. The prognosis is poor.

She is 38, and has two children -- 7 and 11.

Her grief is not mine, but her circumstance brings my own right back to the surface. I understand the helplessness she feels, the anxiety of knowing too much but not enough. Cancer is a sonofabitch; brain cancer, the worst. The treatment robs patients of themselves without offering much in return. It seemed to me to be a relentless undoing of a life, a slow unraveling that all of us -- even Mom -- had to witness every day. It was awful for everyone.

Watching my mother die from that hideous disease changed me; I don't know how it couldn't. To this day I have a single, horrible memory of Mom that defines the entire illness for me, one I'm afraid I'll never be able to shake. It was a moment that captured every feeling of guilt and desperation and confusion that I experienced over all those months; but worse still it was the moment I saw my mother losing herself, so far away and yet stranded here in a body that was destroying her.

I still feel the same nauseating helplessness now as I did that day. I still feel the shame of just wanting to leave, because it was easier than facing her. I still feel like the little girl who's been separated from her mother and is crying for her, desperately looking for her -- only I know I'll never find her again.

About two years ago I ran into an old professor. She was speaking at a conference I was attending, discussing the role that emotion plays in how therapists work with their patients and families. Ever since Mom's illness I had been experiencing this first hand. Whether it was discussing feeding tubes with the parents of toddlers or end-of-life considerations with the elderly, my professional judgement was colored by my journey with Mom. I just couldn't handle another difficult conversation that would inevitably lead me to tears.

Hope and I talked for a long time after her presentation. We talked a bit about the "old days" but mostly about our families. It was clear to her that my loss was still fresh despite the time that had passed. She told me I had to work through the grief.

And I explained to her that I wasn't all that inclined to do so, thank you very much.

But I know she's right, even if I don't really know what it means to "work through the grief." Time seems to help some and so does Sara, who talks about her grandparents as though they are simply living in a magical place even further away than Pennsylvania -- which to her is very, very far away. I have purposely laced some of my old family rituals into our lives today, and this seems to be both comforting and comfortable, and feels like an acknowledgement of who Mom and Dad were and what they left with me. As life goes on the good memories outweigh the bad and I can remember the past without feeling robbed of it.

Until I get that phone call, and I hear in someone else's voice the fear and helplessness that is still so close at hand. And then grief gets the best of me again.

I guess I still have work to do.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Ever have one of those days?

Ever have one of those days with your kid? You know, the kind where you take her into a store for a quick perusal and she finds a strangulation hazard in three minutes flat? And you know she found it because in the 20 seconds you had actually managed to focus on the reason for your trip, she wanders away from you and you locate her by the "Hey Mama, I can h-gaaaah" that you hear from 5 feet away. When you turn to look, she's got a cord around her neck and grimace on her face.

Yes, one of those days.

Or one of those days where, in an effort to get food on the table (cause that's your job too), you pause for a second to appreciate how smoothly things are going. Maybe a little too smoothly. And definitely too quietly. So when you ask your kid what she's doing and she says "I'm playing in my room," you instantly determine that you are hosed. This is confirmed when you call her out to see you and she comes trotting in with one arm behind her back, certain that you'll never figure out that she's hiding something back there.

What were you doing?
No, what where you doing?
"Cleaning da floors."

And that's when you find that the bathroom hand soap has been squirted all over the bathroom floor, her bedroom floor, her bedside table, her bed, and one sandal -- the other one, thankfully, is still on her foot.

10 minutes are spent coaching her on how to clean up her mess. 10 minutes of your life you'll never get back.

At this point you breath a little easier. The worst is over. Because what could she come up with in the two minutes that you take to go back to the kitchen & make sure dinner wasn't ruined?

Turns out, she comes up with Desitin. The sticky, smelly Desitin that just the other day you had found her smearing all over her boot and told her she was not to get into. Right -- the very same stuff. Except this time she is huddled under the quilt on the far side of the bed trying to avoid detection, rubbing it on her hands and arms. Why? Just because she can, I guess.

Aaaaand game over. Time out clock begins... now. Tears, wailing, an actual - and I kid you not - boo hoo, pleas for release, demands for Noggin.

For the love of God, if I could just get dinner on the table!

She is freed and makes a bee line for higher ground. Now that she's upstairs with her aunt you feel safe, and take advantage of the situation by sitting (that's right, sitting) for five minutes. Dinner is ready. You make her a plate, hopeful that when get some food in her belly the beast will be silenced.

But not so much. Because in calling her to dinner you've interrupted what clearly must be the best episode of Ni-Hao Kai-Lan ever, and you hear about it. All through dinner. Lots of sobbing, but very little eating.

Oh, sweet Lord.

Before the evening ends she will have consumed 4 and a half chocolate chip cookies and you don't even care. She's in bed. Tomorrow is a new day.

And then tomorrow comes. But it's no longer one of those days; now, it's one of those weekends -- one of those rainy, stormy, stuck-inside-all-day weekends.

Chasing the cats.
Using the sofa as a trampoline.
Using her baby stroller as a battering ram.
Honing her macrame skills with the cords from the blinds.
Insisting that the neighborhood dog running through the yard needs to be fed, and weeping when you won't let her go after it.

Save. Me. Now. It's not even noon.

Lemme just say that next weekend, when the Papa is home?

I'm so off duty.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Hear me rawr

If you know me at all, you know that I am not an overt feminist. Some might assume that I am not a feminist at all.

Well, you'd be wrong.

While not a supporter of many of the agendas of the feminist movement, I do believe that women are meant to enjoy the same opportunities that men do -- when that is logical. Women are equally deserving of good jobs, quality educations, and sound medical care, just like their male counterparts. But this may not mean we are entitled to always enjoy the same opportunities because, in case you hadn't noticed?

We are wildly different creatures. And for that I say Amen. Different is amazing, and interesting, and beautiful, and quite literally life-giving.

This isn't really a post about equal rights. This is about about equal access to something vital to the well-being of women everywhere: sound medical care.

Probably because of our historically male-driven paradigm (men work/men provide/men lead/men protect/etc), a lot of medical research is conducted with men in mind. Or, maybe more accurately, with men as the primary source from which data is collected. Heart disease, for example, manifests itself quite differently in a woman than it does in a man -- but in the past most public education campaigns were designed around the classic symptoms found in men, as most research had typically been done on the male population. I don't believe this was deliberate, just an unfortunate outcome of an outdated mindset.

The good news? The medical community seems to be catching on to this. Women's health is being discussed in many outlets and researchers are casting a wider net, looking for clues to the genesis - and cures - for disease in both men and women.

But I'm here to tell you, we still have a long way to go. I know this because I'm experiencing the imbalance myself.

I'm not sure when I first heard about PCOS, or polycystic ovary syndrome. I know the first time I ever heard a doctor mention it to me was more or less in passing, as she went over the results of a rather lengthy history I had provided. Buried between the meatier topics of obesity and diabetes risks was a quick castoff, a mention that I had all the classic signs of PCOS -- fun stuff, like being overweight, having irregular periods, oily skin, unwanted facial hair -- and so I probably had that as well. That was it.

A few months later I had a miscarriage.

Soon after that, in a discussion about insulin resistance, I was put on Metformin. It was explained to me that this would help my body overcome the insulin resistance, thereby helping me achieve better weight loss results. The side effects could be unpleasant (and yes, they can be) but we should give it a go. And so we did.

Never one to shy away from the internet for more information, I started doing some searches on this new medication I was taking. It didn't take long before I saw that it was frequently prescribed for women with PCOS -- and hadn't I been told I probably had that, too? With a little more digging I found that Metformin was known to help women with PCOS get pregnant. Get pregnant, and stay pregnant.

That's when I knew that there was no "probably" about it. I really had this thing, this PCOS. And I had likely lost a baby because of it. And nobody told me it might happen.

Happily, I got pregnant again -- thanks to that Metformin, I have no doubt -- and had a beautiful, healthy baby girl. Perhaps I've mentioned her before?

So life went on. I lost more weight. Then I lost my mother, and my father, and most of my resolve, and the weight soon returned. I continued to see my doctors, an ob-gyn and a new internist, and I always brought up PCOS. Not really knowing what to ask, I would tell them that another doctor told me I probably had it. And in lock-step, each doctor would shrug, say yes you probably do, and there's little you can do about it. Eat right. Exercise. Lose weight. Next question.

And I know that their answers were correct. Correct, but not complete.

I'm learning that PCOS, obviously unique to women, is a parallel to something the medical community calls Syndrome X, a high-insulin metabolic state. While my primary concern with PCOS arose from infertility, some recent reading has also taught me that PCOS, like Syndrome X, can lead to diabetes, high blood pressure, and cardiovascular problems. Additionally, because PCOS effects the hormonal function of the ovaries, women with chronic and/or severe cases are also at risk for ruptured cysts, ovarian twisting, internal bleeding, endometriosis, endometrial hyperplasia, and endometrial cancer.

An increased risk for cancer. There's absolutely nothing that terrifies me more.

I think that's worth more than a shrug and a passing comment, don't you? Three doctors -- three female doctors -- never told me any of this. Maybe they didn't know. But they should, and now I do.

Look, I'm not going to lie: Losing weight and getting pregnant were big motivators for learning more about this thing, and they are still big motivators for trying to overcome it. But the more I learn the more I realize that there is more at stake here than dropping a few dress sizes and having another baby. There is my life, and growing old with Rob and raising Sara.

Why didn't they tell me? I don't suppose it matters now. What matters is that I don't let them off the hook so easily in the future. I know better what to ask, and who to seek if they can't provide the answers.

Because I'm a woman. And I deserve that kind of healthcare.


Monday, July 06, 2009

Dying a million tiny deaths

OK. If I had the time and the money and the chutzpa to go there, I would totally go see House Beautiful's 2009 Kitchen of the Year.


Ina Garten.

Ina Garten will be there.

Ina Garten will be there, in an amazing kitchen.

Ina Garten will be there, in an amazing kitchen that she inspired.

And I know if I went we would be best friends.

Because that's how it works, right?

(I love you, Ina.)


Photo courtesy of The Food Network, via

(Please don't sue me for copyright infringement.)

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Not words I would use to describe myself, but...

I think there is truth in some this -- at least for today.

you are a dreamer

  • Your combination of abstract thinking, appreciation of beauty, and cautiousness makes you a DREAMER.

  • You often imagine how things could be better, and you have very specific visions of this different future.

  • Beauty and style are important to you, and you have a discerning eye when it comes to how things look.

  • Although you often think more broadly, you prefer comfort to adventure, choosing to stay within the boundaries of your current situation.

  • Your preferences for artistic works are very refined, although you vastly prefer some types and styles to others.

  • Though your dreams are quite vivid, you are cautious in following up on them.

  • You are aware of both your positive and negative qualities, so that your ego doesn't get in your way.

  • A sense of vulnerability sometimes holds you back, stifling your creative tendencies.

  • You're not one to force your positions on a group, and you tend to be fair in evaluating different options.

  • You are balanced in your approach to problem-solving, not letting your emotions hold you up.

  • You prefer to have time to plan for things, feeling better with a schedule than with keeping plans up in the air until the last minute.

  • You do your own thing when it comes to clothing, guided more by practical concerns than by other people's notions of style.

  • If you want to be different:

  • Your imagination is a wonderful asset, but don't just dream—be bold enough to take action and explore new things!

  • Consider a wider range of details and possibilities when thinking about the present and the future—don't be too set in your ways.

  • how you relate to others

    you are considerate

  • You trust others, care about them, and are slow to judge them, making you CONSIDERATE.

  • You value your close relationships very much, and are more likely to spend time in small, tightly-knit groups of friends than in large crowds.

  • You enjoy exploring the world through observation, quietly watching others.

  • Relating to others so well, and understanding their emotions, leads you to trust people in general, even though you're somewhat shy and reserved at times.

  • Your belief that people are generally well-intentioned contributes to your sympathy regarding their problems.

  • Although you may not vocalize it often, you have an awareness of how society affects individuals, and you understand complex causes of people's behavior.

  • You like to look at all sides of a situation before making a judgment, particularly when that situation involves important things in other people's lives.

  • Your close friends know you as a good listener.

  • If you want to be different:

  • Because other people would benefit immensely from your understanding and insight, you should try to be more outgoing in social situations, even when they make you uncomfortable. Others will want to hear what you have to say!

  • Thanks to @zigged for the link!

    And to prove there's no sour grapes

    Some blogs I've recently stumbled across that I love:

    I would totally love hanging with this girl. And not just because of the Red Velvet Black & White cookies, Root Beer Float Cake, or Brown Sugar Bacon Waffles (though none of those things would hurt). No, I would dig an afternoon with her because she's funny, clever, and as nice as can be. (Thanks to Casey @ for pointing us to this site with her rave review of the Root Beer Float Cake.)

    In keeping with the baking theme, I bring you Conversations With a Cupcake. This blogger has managed to blend mad baking skills with charm, wit, and illustrations. Oh, and she does some very generous things along the way. I've found my birthday cake for next year at this site -- seriously, I've already sent the link to my sister.

    I love this woman because she loves fabric. The fact that she has a knack for easy, accessible, and often inexpensive home decor just sealed the deal. When I knew it was true love? Her window mistreatments, where she created lovely valances without the benefit of a sewing machine, curtain rods, or a hammer. Cause why bother with a hammer when your high heel will do?

    A New Zealander with crazy crafting skills. I found her while searching for a tutorial on freezer paper stenciling. She had only been on my blogroll for a couple of days when she posted about her mother's sudden death, and now my heart aches for a woman who I don't even know.

    OK, full disclosure: Elaine is one of my BFFs. Has been for the longest time: college, marriage, miscarriage, birth, losing our mothers, losing weight, gaining weight, scrapbooking, singing, traveling, and more laughing than I can begin to list. So of course I follow her blog -- but she also happens to be an awesome photographer. And she's just as genuine & nice in real life as she seems to be on her blog. I know, I know... I'm a lucky girl.

    This is one of those blogs that makes me want to chuck it all and stay at home so I can sew all of Sara's clothes, grow & preserve all of our food, and snap awesome shots of everything while I do it. I used her twirly skirt tutorial to make my first (and only) successful item of clothing and am itching to try the coffee cozy pattern next. Because the only thing better than that first cup of coffee is that first cup of coffee with a cute cozy surrounding it.

    So, what about you? Which blogs are you loving these days?

    Saturday, July 04, 2009

    Woe is them

    The internet is an amazing thing.

    Over the last ten years it's become an almost indispensable thing for most of us -- I know that I, personally, have used it to:

    • "Date" my husband (before he decided it would be easier to move than drive 20 hours to & from Indiana every weekend)
    • Plan my wedding
    • Find long-lost family and arrange a reunion to finally meet them
    • Track my pregnancy
    • Find my job
    • Look for a house
    • Look for houses for other people
    • Decide not to buy a house
    • Look for contractors
    • Renovate my house
    • Learn to sew
    • Reconnect with old friends

    And then there are the daily things -- tracking the sales at the supermarket, finding recipes, reading the news, getting directions, checking the weather, looking for hotels, reading blogs...

    Ah, reading blogs.

    Blogs are probably the most interesting thing out there. Most (like mine, I fully admit) are not really worth the time spent reading them, at least to people other than family & friends. Some are blatant marketing tools. Others never really get off the ground. But now and then a blog really hits on something: an audience, an idea, a movement, whatever. These bloggers have a voice that people like to hear. Some set out hearing that voice from the beginning, while others evolve, like the classic "mommy blogger" who eventually manages to filter her thoughts down to one main idea -- say, going organic with your family.

    I've often wondered if I need to find a voice too. But that assumes that I'm trying to cultivate a following (I'm not) and that I have the talent to sustain it (I don't). This blog is for me and for my daughter. I'm flattered when people stumble across here and find something I've said interesting or funny or useful, but that's just gravy.

    Over my decade or so traveling the internet and reading blogs I've had the pleasure of watching a few bloggers transcend that gap between personal story-telling and public speaking. Sometimes I think it's just happenstance; sometimes it seems to be very deliberate. Either way, I continue to follow them because I, too, happen to like what they have to say.


    Except when they write posts explaining to their readers how they just don't have the time to write for them right now. These same readers, whose loyalty and encouragement has granted them a public forum, opportunities for income, sometimes even entire careers -- no time. Too busy. Too conflicted. Too in demand.

    Too full of themselves.

    Don't get me wrong, I don't think bloggers owe their readers anything. Unless, of course, their readership has earned them sponsors, ad revenue, freebies, and book deals. Then I think they do owe us something: the voice they so earnestly wanted us to hear in the first place. Because without regularly sharing that voice, their audience -- along with all those benefits -- eventually disappears.

    And without a doubt a new blogger will be happy to fill their shoes. Because the Next Big Thing? Is already out there.

    Sunday, June 21, 2009

    Forget Orlando

    Oh no.

    Despite what you have been led to believe by The Mouse, the happiest place on Earth can actually be found on East 86th Street in Indianapolis.

    The internets have led me to a local shop that quite literally took my breath away when I stepped into it for the first time yesterday.

    (Thank you, internets.)

    Quilts Plus is now, I am sure, going to be both my salvation and my undoing, the place that lifts me up when I am down while at the same time torturing me with its endless (literally endless) possibilities.

    Quilts Plus, I hate you for loving you so.

    Unlike the Other Stores Which Shall Remain Nameless, the staff at Quilts Plus are nice -- friendly you might say, though I quiver a little at the realization of this, even as I type. No fabric nazis here; in fact, when the chief-cutter-in-charge said hello I quietly admitted to her that I had never been there before, and instead of sneering at me she actually welcomed me. With a smile. And enthusiasm!


    Excuse me while I take a moment.

    My mind literally started to spin when I rounded the first corner and spied the "kids collection." If only I had twelve more for whom to make totes and skirts and curtains and pillows galore. And seriously -- seriously, I tell you -- I could feel the breath catch in my throat when I rounded the next corner and realized that I had a least another half of the store to peruse.

    Oh, and peruse I did.

    But what really won me over, more than the fabulous staff and mind-boggling inventory, was that they had exactly what I wanted. The fabric I've been mooning over online for weeks now -- Moda, Amy Butler, Michael Miller, on and on and on -- was all there waiting for me. Even the one design that had been eluding me* at Etsy** (whose vendors, lets face it, have all the awesome stuff) was there standing in the stack just waiting to go home with me. I maybe might have squealed a little.

    OK I did squeal a little. Don't judge me. The ladies at Quilts Plus didn't. They understand.

    Quilts Plus, Quilts Plus, Quilts Plus... I think we've got a future together.

    Miss you already.

    *Sorry, no sneak previews... I've picked this out as a special gift for someone!
    **I love Etsy so much that I have already plotted out my own online shop. I even have a name for it. And no, I'm not telling you what it is.

    Saturday, June 20, 2009

    Just a thimbleful

    It's true that everything that's awesome about being a mom would fill every ocean in the world -- the first time you see your baby would probably fill just one to overflowing all by itself.

    It's equally true that some things about being a mom aren't quite so endearing. But because I know how fortunate we are to have such a happy, healthy, smart, funny, beautiful girl* I will limit my list of complaints to the liquid equivalent of a thimble. And in this thimble you would find:

    • Weekend wake-up calls when you've been given the clear to sleep in. "Mama! It says eight-oh-eight and that means I want you to get up now!"
    • Negotiating... well, everything.
    • Debating the fundamental benefits of going poo in the potty.
    • Stepping on rocks, dolls, crayons, plastic caps, Hot Wheels, grapes, and all things small.
    • Having an audience in the bathroom. Every. Single. Time.
    • Donning a bathing suit in public. (ONLY for my daughter. And to everyone at the Jordan Y today, my sincerest apologies.)
    • Shiny purple things.
    • Time outs.
    • Naps refused.
    • Pinky Dinky Doo. Worse yet, Lazy Town.

    See, it's not a long list. And, I suppose, more than a fair trade.

    *Yes, I do know this. I am reminded every, single day -- and I never take it for granted.

    Thursday, June 18, 2009

    Might've been wrong

    Perhaps got a little ahead of myself on yesterday's post about Something coming.

    Or maybe the Something came and is just better known as The Shit. As in, The Shit Hitting the Fan.

    What a day. I was exhausted by 10 o'clock this morning.


    Enough with the pregnant

    Four people from work
    Two old friends
    Three announcements in past two weeks

    And no, I'm not.

    Wednesday, June 17, 2009


    Today as I sat in a meeting where I essentially explained to my boss that what we really need is someone to do my job who isn't me (you know -- in a nutshell), I got butterflies. I chalked it up to the many many great unknowns in my workplace these days and didn't think too much more about it.

    And then driving home I felt it again. That feeling you get in your stomach when you go over a hill, or when you are waiting for something to happen, something you've anticipated and are excited about, but also a little scared about, too. You know -- Something, with a capital "S."

    I felt it most of the evening, and I wonder what it is. I wonder if the me that I don't listen to often enough knows something I don't know. I wonder if Something really is coming.

    Or maybe not.

    I do know that it feels like the time is ripe for change. Not the kind of change that I'm trying to engineer (Lord knows how that doesn't work) but change that just comes, like kids growing and leaves turning and your wedding day come and gone seemingly in spite of yourself.

    I'm not going to try and figure out what this is, or when it's coming, or even if it's coming. But for the first time in a long time I feel ready for Something to happen, no matter what it is. My life, in all of its smallness, has prepared me for whatever Something comes next. I've figured out that I can do it, whatever "it" is.

    And so we will see.